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An Anthropology Report
of the Eel River Tribe of Indiana

The Eel River Tribe was never very large. Croghan ( an early contact) referred to the Eel River village in 1765 as “small” and in 1778 the Eel River Indians themselves
told Hamilton that their “small numbers did not allow them to send off warriors” to help re-take Vincennes. In 1788, Hamertrack estimated the Eel River had 150
warriors, which made their total population maybe about 600 in all. In 1851 there were 16 Eel River Indians (known) living in Indiana, and three women who had
married into the Western Miami and were living west of the Mississippi. Making a total of 19 (known) Eel River People.

The relatively small size of the Eel River Tribe, plus the fact that living along  the Wabash River between two larger groups, The Miamis, and the Wea and that we
resembled these two groups in language and culture might have also accounted for three early observers having identified the Eel River, mistakenl
y as “Miami.” ( by
Croghan and Hamilton) and as “Weschtenoos [Wea]” ( by Heckwelder). They did not understand that the Eel Rivers were, a group separate and independent from
either the Miami or Wea . Here began the confusion.
Anthropological Report of the Miamis Wea and Eel River Indians Vol. 1. Chapter 4, pp. 171-179: Drs. Ermine Wheeler- Voegelin, Emily J. Blasingham, Dorothy R. Libby

Little Turtle was the chief and headman of the Eel River Tribe prior to the signing of the 1805 Treaty which was intended to combine them, along with the Wea tribe, into
the larger Miami tribe. To the government, it only made sense. The small numbers of the Wea and Eel Rivers and because they lived in the general vicinity of one another,
spoke a similar language, dressed and appeared to share a similar ancestry had caused this union.  There had been some marriage between the trio and this also added to
the conclusion of grouping them together as one collective tribe called, Miami. Later this would add to them and the Wea, being considered only clan groups of the
Miami.

Little Turtle was a great war chief and had led a confederacy force of Woodland tribes against the Americans in decisive victories.  His victories are still regarded as
some of the most lopsided defeats inflicted against any American force even today. To say the least, he (Little Turtle) had earned the respect as a leader and statesmen
and would be the logical choice as war chief for the new collective Miami. Still he was Eel River.   His appointment was also intended to further blend the three groups,
honor the leaders of the smaller tribes, as they were forced by treaty to formally join. With the execution and signatures on this treaty, Little Turtle would be forever
associated as a Miami and would be forgotten over the generations that he was in fact an Eel River Chief and more.

Little Turtle Speaks:

“I am no Miami, I am only their interpreter”
Nearly all historians agree that Little Turtle was a fine orator and can recall many of his speeches at meetings. However; his meeting at
the council held
July 10th, 1805,
before combining the Eel River and Wea with the Miami, is almost never discussed. Here he said quite clearly "I am no Miami, I am
only their interpreter."   

Little Turtle, the head Chief of the Eel Rivers passed the headman duties and responsibilities to Charley ‘Katunga’ after this council meeting held in July 1805.
National Archives, RG 107. Old Army, H-325(2) . Signed J.J. [John Johnston] Enc. With letter of William Henry Harrison to Henry Dearborn Vincennes, July 10, 1805 (continued). Minutes of a council
meeting held with the Delaware, Eel River, Miami    July, 1805
.
Little Turtle made this statement because, not until after that meeting by Aug. 21st a treaty was then signed with the intention of combining the three groups under the
united name "Miamis".  This collective, Miami tribe would make it easier to enter into treaties, cede lands, pay annuities by dealing with one common group. In reality it
only caused additional confusion and clouded the rolls of clear leadership and the rights of all.
TREATY WITH THE DELAWARES, ETC., 1805.
Aug. 21, 1805. | 7 Stat., 91. | Proclamation, Apr. 24. 1806. (Kappler Indian Laws and Treaties)

This letter from the minutes of the council meeting, was recorded  July 10th, before the Treaty on August. 21st.  At that time Little Turtle was speaking the truth. He was
no Miami and was only interpreting for them on their behalf and at that time he was only considered an Eel River Chief.
The treaty following this council meeting  was completed in August. Only then was Little Turtle to be considered a member of the new Miami collective. However; his
roots did not change, he was still Eel River and trough his mother also relative to The Delaware.
{CC. Trowbridge, National Archive etc}
Vague accounts are all that exist on Little Turtle’s parents. Most historians do agree that his mother was a Mohegan woman. She had been transplanted to the West and
there was treated as any other adopted tribal person. She had encountered a Trader who was  injured in the leg while in a conflict near the Wea along the Wabash River.
She had helped him to safety by carrying or dragging him to the nearest friendly village. Here he was nursed back to health to almost a complete recovery. He was so
grateful, but now without possessions, he could only admire her courage and repeat his admiration and thanks to her. His feeling grew so strong for her that it was said he
had thought of her as his own daughter and considered her as such.
CC Trowbridge interview / Allen Co Library Microfilm Dept. 1826 "LeGros"

We do not debate that Little Turtle was a honorable and historically, a great leader of his time. We do however feel obligated to tell this accounts and that of the tiny Eel River
Tribe that has sometimes been overshadowed in history and by popularly embellished stories. At this point in history the Eel Rivers were without doubt separate and apart from all
others.

Why We are called The Eel Rivers
One of the most common told errors is how we became known as The Eel River Tribe. Many historians have claimed it is because we lived along the Eel River near modern day
Logansport IN. In reality the river got its name because we lived on it and we were already called the Eel River or Sometimes "Snakefish" or "Missassago" Tribe.  
John McClurg, a member of the army at St. Clair’s defeat, said this of the chief of the Eel River Tribe:
“The leader of the Indian army at the time of St. Clair’s defeat was a chief
of Missassago tribe, known by the name of Little Turtle. Notwithstanding his name, he was at least 6 ft. tall. His aspect was harsh, sour and forbidding, and his person during the
action was arrayed in the very extremity of Indian finery, having at least $20 worth of silver descending from his nose and ears.”
Another man who saw him after the battle described him as this::His dress consisted of moccasins, a blue petticoat that came halfway down his thighs, and a European
waistcoat and cutout. His head was bound with an Indian cap that hung halfway down his back and was almost entirely filled with plain silver brooches to the number of 200. He
had two earrings to each ear; the upper part of each being formed of three silver medals about the size of a dollar, the lower part of quarter dollars, which extended more than 12
inches from his nose; one over his breast and the other over his back. He also had three very large nose jewels of silver that were curiously painted.”
Note: Missassago: is the Algonquian word for rattle snake, timber rattler, they are often nearly black in color with underdeveloped rattles. Some often appear similar to black~snakes or eel~fish...
snake~fish.

Even more important is the relationship to the early French in the area. They had realized that some of our members were different, something other than many they had
encountered. They called us a"l'Anguille, or snakes in the grass. They had also recognized that some of our numbers were deserters from long forgotten armies. Englishmen
without leave.
Hamilton’s Journal is taken from Henry Hamilton and George Rogers Clark in the American Revolution with the unpublished journal of Lieut. Gov. Henry Hamilton, edited by John
D. Barnhart and published by R. E. Banta, Crawfordsville, Indiana, 1951
. http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/www/ihb/resources/hamiltonfootnotes.html

Page 206
The Isle of Garlic,” or l’isle a l’ail, is located approximately four miles above Delphi, Indiana, or some ten miles above the mouth of Tippecanoe River"
.Also from Hamilton’s Journal . . . .
pp. 162
Riviere a L’Anguille is the Eel River of Indiana. See Hamilton’s entries for November 19, 21, and 24.
pp. 197
Riviere à l’Anguille is the modern Eel River Anguille: to begin a thing at the wrong end, there is a snake in the grass. [Cassell’s pp35] Anguillie’re: Eel Pond [Cassell’s pp.
35] Anglais: (I) English: British, filer, a l’anglais,
to slip away, to take French leave; Anglais: Englishman, The English, the English Language [Cassell’s pp. 34] Some of the
leaders were men of origin that over time had become L'Anguile, Absentees from another place and time. The French recognized this and this factor may also added to the lack of
contact with early contacts within the region and avoiding contact with many.
 

The Journal of the Proceedings” Ft. Wayne IN “Indian Treaties” held on September 30th 1809.
Excerpt reads as follows:
The governor (Wm. H. Harrison) requested that all the chiefs present would speak in their turn, and called upon the principal chief of the Eel River tribe
who was an old friend of his who had served with him in General Wayne’s Army
. He demanded to know what his objections were to the treaty. He (the Eel
River chief) drew out the treaty of Grousland. ‘Father . .’

see treaty  with the date Sept. 30th 1809; Kappler's Indian Laws and Treaties Vol I. / Charley is this “Principal Chief”]

Indiana Historical Markers
Many arguments can be made that the Eel River are part of other groups both now and historically. The history as it is written would favor this. Remember however: "A
Mistake in history can be written, copied  and told time and time again until it appears to be an historical truth...but it is still a mistake."

Historical Markets and many other items in the mainstream also misreport the Eel River Tribe.

Photo of historical villagS
of Peter Cornstalk and his Snakefish, Eel
River. It reads:
Chief Cornstalk’s Village
Chief Peter Cornstalk’s Village
of Snakefish (Eel River) Tribe
of Miami Indians
was located three miles from here
along Cornstalk Creek.
Wigwams and Indian burial
ground were near the little
Harshbarger family cemetery.
In Indians lived at peace with
settlers moving here in the 1800s.”

Indiana Cemetery Marker
Eel River Tribe of Miamis at Thorntown.
Other items also reflect inaccurate
and misreported information.
Who ?
The Eel River Tribe of Indians appeared in  history during the 18th century. From the beginning, the reports of who we were and how we came to be called The Eel
Rivers have been  misunderstood. We were reduced, according to some, to a small number and could not send many warriors to the conflicts in the Ohio Valley. At their
head was a famous figure who many history books have reported as a Miami War Chief. His name was Little Turtle.

In 1748 Little Turtle’s parents were located near Pickawillany, Ohio. Life was relatively good with trade with the few trappers and settlers who lived and visited the area.
The western migration of the bulk of European immigrants into the  interior of America had not yet begun, but it was coming.

The French occupied and controlled much of the regional hunting and trapping, to support the demand of fur, both in North America and abroad. The Spanish still
occupied the most southern region, Florida. Most of the country had yet to be surveyed or even explored. Forests were thick and rivers clear enough to drink from and
all game flourished. Species not seen in generations  were also in abundance. Animals such as the woodland bison, bear, elk and eagle were as commonly seen as were
the people of the Woodland tribes. Life was still innocent and good. Men evaluated one another on his word and reputation as a hunter and the color of a man’s skin did
not always indicate his intent or his character.

Trouble with the white haired grandfathers of England was building. Not only among their transplanted and newly born subjects, but also within the tribes of the region.
Promises between men were giving way to the ambitions of countries and the impact would leave death, destruction and the disappearance of a many people.
LONGHOUSE
Open to all with a
good heart.
Algonquian and their
related tribes all
believe in the “Great
Spirit” or “Manitou.”
The “Great Spirit” was
considered the
supreme being, and
lived in everything

“We have been pushed
westward and off our
lands for so long that
the graves of our
grandfathers are no
longer known to us.
Without our old ones
our stories fade and
our history now too
grows dim.

Little Turtle
“The leader of the
Indian army at the
time of St. Clair’s
defeat was a chief of
Missassago tribe,
known by the name of
Little Turtle.
Ours is not to change the past
but leave a record for our
future.
Ours is not to confuse others
but share all that we know to
be true.
Ours is not to destroy, but
rather build that which will last
beyond our days.
Ours is not to alter others
stories but to preserve our own.
Our path will be hard and
some may fall but for those
who can endure and for those
who will
prevail,our memory, our
history, our Tribe will live in
the hearts of our
grand-children's children.         
                                             
                     ~ Five Trees   

When the last of us shall have perished, and the memory of our tribe shall become a myth among men, these shores shall swarm with the invisible
dead of our tribe . . .  
When  your children’s children think themselves alone in the fields, the stores, upon the highways, or in the
silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone.
~Modified from: Seattle (Dwabish)
John McClurg, a member of the army at St. Clair’s
defeat, said this of the chief of the Eel River Tribe:
“The leader of the Indian army at the time of St. Clair’s
defeat was a chief of Missassago tribe, known by the
name of Little Turtle. Notwithstanding his name, he
was at least 6 ft. tall. His aspect was harsh, sour and
forbidding, and his person during the action was
arrayed in the very extremity of Indian finery, having at
least $20 worth of silver descending from his nose and
ears.
His dress consisted of moccasins, a blue
petticoat that came halfway down his thighs, and a
European waistcoat and cutout. His head was bound
with an Indian cap that hung halfway down his back
and was almost entirely filled with plain silver brooches
to the number of 200. He had two earrings to each
ear; the upper part of each being formed of three
silver medals about the size of a dollar, the lower part
of quarter dollars, which extended more than 12
inches from his nose; one over his breast and the
other over his back. He also had three very large nose
jewels of silver that were curiously painted.”

Note: Missassago: is the Algonquian word for rattle snake,
timber rattler, they are often nearly black in color with  
underdeveloped rattles. Some often appear similar to
black~snakes or eel~fish...snake~fish.
Change is constant. History involves all generations, past  present and future.
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